Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Ego food

Just got an e-mail from a former student. It poses a good head-inflater, but also an interesting pedagogical issue:
I feel privileged to have been taught by you. I know it can be tough teaching cavalier seniors when the vast majority cares for nothing but to pass out of class and move on with their lives. I admit, I slacked off considerably this year in school--though I found myself teaching myself more outside of class than I ever had before. But you managed to keep me interested regardless. . .

Many times I found myself researching "tidbits" that you would mention in class of separate works of literature, only to find many of them more interesting than you had described. Although you may not have noticed, oftentimes you would mention other works of literature that you have read, relating them to work we did in class. Well, I am an overly curious know-it-all sort of person and would teach myself anything that you mentioned that I did not already know, or at least as much as I could.
Now I'm not excatly made of stone, and this is the kind of job perk that keeps suckers like me returning to the classroom day in, day out. There are just a couple of things that have occurred to me:

1) I think I may have taught him what "cavalier" means. I only hope it wasn't in a shitty context, like "You damned seniors think you're so cavalier. Well you're really a bunch of snots. Now write out 'I will not dissapoint Mr. L. for the rest of the hour.' "

2) The aforementioned student was easily one of the brightest I've ever taught...and probably one of the best in the school. Yes, he did slack off in my class, and while I'd like to argue that I was too busy trying to get other slackers to pass the fucking course to devote enough attention to him, the truth is that his very intelligence and maturity led me to believe he knew he was slacking, and that the best lesson he could get was to suffer the consequences (in this case, an A- instead of an A, God save the Queen). Besides, calling home to complain about a kid not living up to his full potential when he's doing above average work is like wearing a Kick Me Hard sign. And if I sound like I'm ducking work, you're probably right.

3) He mentions that I managed to keep him interested. Leaving aside my sneaking suspicion that he's playing it smart and setting up future letters of recommendation (would that I had taken such an angle myself), there is a disturbing sense of pleasure in keeping a kid like that engrossed. Like I said, he's smart as hell--but the real challenge in my job is getting kids to learn whether or not they're engrossed. You can save all the "Inspire me, o conveyor of wisdom" bullshit for the teacher flicks--in real life, getting that grumbling little SOB to do something that requires brain cells and meets your standards is cause for parades and balloons, never mind whether he liked your class or not. Still, I suppose I'm beating myself up here a little--you don't have to fight battles like that with a kid like this, which leaves you open for all sorts of other methodologies. You wouldn't have known he was engrossed--he was too polite to snooze in class, unlike some of his peers, but I would have bet my pension plan, if I had one, that his eyes glazed over at least on a biweekly basis.

Still, the gesture is not overlooked. I thanked him for his feedback and gave him a few more books to read (A Clockwork Orange doesn't hold a candle to Burgess' dystopian The Wanting Seed). If I can get a kid to at least read my recommendations, never mind liking them, I consider myself a true purveyor of culture and its digestion.

These are those trees we educators see instead of the forest. And there's plenty more of them to get lost in. Maybe I ought to quit and go into investment banking. Then I could really get my pedagogy straight.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Too Funny Because It's Too True

Weapons of Mass Destruction Message.

Plagiarized this one from Wiggo. Couldn't resist.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Praise be to the old man--for my 28th birthday, I got a new decorative bookshelf. Enough to put my snotty "this-is-what-I'm-reading-what-about-you-you-ignorant-wretch" attitude out for everyone to see. But the best thing is, amongst the screws, divots and felt buffers, the package came with its own bottle of glue for me to sniff. Coolness.

Also picked up the White Stripes' Elephant and some dumb Mortal Kombat game for the PS. Used to play that game while sniffing glue (or some semblance of) way back when. Brought back fond memories.

Time for a bottle of wine. Never mind what O'Reilly says--Vive la France!